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Despite numerous advances in the prevention of HIV, new data show that the rate of new infections among Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men did not decline over the past decade.

Officials say the finding, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underscores the need to address underlying social issues and gaps in the distribution of care even as public health initiatives continue to try to reduce HIV rates.

Overall, new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men declined 8% over the last decade, the report found. But most of that decline was caused by declining rates of infection among white gay and bisexual men. Among Black and Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, rates stayed stable, and any changes were not statistically significant, it found.

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“The first CDC report showing [this] disease was disproportionately affecting Black and Hispanic/Latino people was published in 1986. Today’s Vital Signs confirms that unfortunately, those disparities continue today,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a press briefing.

Demetre Daskalakis, the director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said the research offered a “decades-in-the-making opportunity to end our nation’s HIV epidemic.”

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“To end the HIV epidemic, we will need to address systemic factors that turn health differences into public health injustice. That starts with recognizing that HIV disparities are not inevitable,” Daskalakis said. “Working to achieve equity for gay and bisexual men of color requires tearing down barriers to testing, prevention, and treatment.”

CDC

The data were published a day before World AIDS Day, which this year the U.S. has themed “Ending the HIV Epidemic: Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.”

The White House is also expected to release a National HIV/AIDS Strategy Wednesday that will lay out the government’s plan to reduce new HIV infections by 90% by 2030. The plan complements the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, which is led by the Department of Health and Human Services.

HIV-1 prevention has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. The Food and Drug Administration first approved a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment for HIV in 2012; a second drug, Descovy, earned approval in 2019. Additionally, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in prevention annually.

In addition to tracking the number of new HIV infections by race and ethnicity, the research also presented results from the most recent National HIV Behavioral Surveillance survey, which found that 42% of white gay and bisexual men surveyed in 2017 reported using PrEP in the past 12 months, compared with just 27% of Black men and 31% of Hispanic/Latino men. Unlike the data on new infections, these survey statistics focused on major urban hubs and are not nationally representative.

Different types of stigma within communities may contribute to these statistics, as well as persistent factors like discrimination, health care access and use, education, income, housing, and transportation, said Daskalakis.

“There is no simple solution to achieving health equity,” he said.

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